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In Taliban-urination case, Marine's attorney seeks to question the commandant, other brass

Motion follows allegations Marine Corps' top general exerted unlawful command influence

Jun. 20, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
Guy Womack, defense attorney for Sgt. Robert Richards, will question Lt. Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, left, and Lt. Gen. Richard Mills, center, regarding allegations that Commandant Gen. Jim Amos, right, exerted unlawful command influence in the case against his client.
Guy Womack, defense attorney for Sgt. Robert Richards, will question Lt. Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, left, and Lt. Gen. Richard Mills, center, regarding allegations that Commandant Gen. Jim Amos, right, exerted unlawful command influence in the case against his client. ()
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A military judge will hear arguments Friday on a motion to depose the Marine Corps commandant and two other top generals in what has become one of the most high-profile cases involving wrongdoing by U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

The motion was filed by attorney Guy Womack, who represents Sgt. Robert Richards, one of four Marine scout snipers filmed two years ago urinating on dead Taliban fighters. Womack said he believes the commandant, Gen. Jim Amos, exerted unlawful command influence to prejudice Marines against his client even before formal charges were brought. He wants a chance to question Amos under oath, along with Lt. Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, who serves as the senior military adviser to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, and Lt. Gen. Richard Mills, who heads Marine Corps Combat Development Command, which has overseen the prosecution of cases related to the incident.

Richards faces court-martial in August on several charges related to the video, which ignited an international controversy when it appeared on YouTube in January 2012. At least six other Marines, all members of 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines, at Camp Lejeune, N.C., have been disciplined for their roles in the incident. Capt. James Clement, then executive officer for the battalion’s Kilo Company, also awaits trial.

Earlier this year, a Marine attorney who works for Mills filed a complaint with the Defense Department inspector general alleging that Amos and four of his legal advisers inappropriately inserted themselves into the process to ensure severe punishments for those connected to the video. Amos transferred authority for the urination case from Waldhauser, then the head of Marine Corps Forces Central Command, to Mills. Womack said Waldhauser intended to administer only nonjudicial punishment for Richards until Amos intervened..

The IG complaint also alleges the commandant’s legal advisers sought to classify evidence assembled in the investigation in spite of objections from Mills’ legal team and four civilian security specialists employed by the Corps.

“There’s plenty of evidence to suggest that the commandant may have been involved too closely in this case,” Womack said. “The specter has been raised with the IG complaints. The best thing for everyone is for us to depose these officers.”

If the motion is approved, Womack said, he would ask Amos what he had told other general officers and senior enlisted leaders about the case, and the extent of his involvement.

Womack said Amos more than muddied the waters with his 2012 Heritage Brief tour, during which addressed thousands of Marines at bases around the world condemning the acts depicted in the video.

“We believe the commandant pointed out these individuals as criminals and people who do not belong in the Marine Corps,” he said. “That will render it impossible for Sgt. Richards and Capt. Clement to get a fair trial, if the commandant has gone around the world saying these Marines are criminals.”

The hearing on Womack’s motion is set for 9 a.m. Friday aboard Camp Lejeune, before Maj. Nicholas Martz, a military judge.

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